Ask a River Guide: Idaho’s Most Underrated River Trip

Longtime O.A.R.S. Guide Eric Hudelson Shares What Makes the Lower Salmon River Worth the Trip

Longtime O.A.R.S. Guide Eric Hudelson Shares What Makes the Lower Salmon River Worth the Trip

Eric Hudelson loves everything about his job, but mostly sharing his love of wild rivers and places with others—especially places like the Salmon River. He grew up fly fishing on Idaho’s rivers, but even after his family moved to California, he kept coming back every summer. Then, in the summer of 1993, he got a break to guide his first trip. After three days on the river, he knew he’d be guiding for some time. That was 24 years ago. From secret hikes to cool geology, Eric reveals what makes Idaho’s Lower Salmon such an underrated river trip…

The scene

“One moment the walls are tight, the river is narrow and the rapids are big, then it opens up again for a few hours and then it closes back. It’s got four canyons within a canyon—Green, Blue, Snowhole and Cougar Canyons. It’s pretty cool because of that. And the beaches are amazing. You have some beaches that seem to stretch forever.”

Longtime O.A.R.S. Guide Eric Hudelson Shares What Makes the Lower Salmon River Worth the Trip

Metamorphic magic

“The geology there, it’s almost one of a kind.  It’s primarily metamorphic [rock], so it’s twisted, folded and makes for really unique canyon walls…something that you don’t see in a lot of rivers.”

First-timer friendly

“It’s a great river…all the fun things you can do besides just boating—lots of water fighting, lots of swimming, big beaches to do water slides, ducky wars in the eddy.  It’s a great river for families. I take my kids down there all the time when I’m not guiding.”

Longtime O.A.R.S. Guide Eric Hudelson Shares What Makes the Lower Salmon River Worth the Trip

Best rapid

“Lower Bunghole. It’s just this short little wave train, but it’s got these really steep standing waves so if you’re in a dory it’s guaranteed that you’re going to bury your bow and completely fill your front footwell.  Passengers will be bailing for five minutes. Ha! That’s a fun one.”

Fear factor

“It’s pool-and-drop, so less intimidating. Even though there are some good rapids, if you flip in an inflatable kayak or fall off a SUP, you got calm water down on the bottom for recovery. It makes for a really good opportunity to try all the different boats that O.A.R.S. has to offer.”

Longtime O.A.R.S. Guide Eric Hudelson Shares What Makes the Lower Salmon River Worth the Trip

Top-secret hike

“There aren’t any established trails, per se, but there are a couple I like to do. The river makes this horseshoe bend about half-way through the Lower Salmon run and up to that horseshoe it’s a short, steep hike—maybe 800-vertical-feet. All of a sudden, boom, you’re looking right back down on some of the biggest rapids that you’ve run, down into Snowhole Canyon.”

Wild encounters

“Mule deer, bighorn sheep on the lower section of the Lower Salmon and into Hells Canyon, osprey, golden eagles, all kinds of waterfowl, river otter, black bear. We’re seeing more bald eagles now, which used to never happen. They’re taking up residency.”

A version of this article first appeared in the 2017 Adventures Catalog. Request your free copy here.